Question to the Department of Health and Social Care:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what steps he is taking to ensure regular testing and post-treatment follow-up of hepatitis C in (a) drug services, (b) pharmacies and (c) sexual health services.
The Community Pharmacy Hepatitis C Antibody Testing Service ensures that people who inject drugs who are not currently accessing community drug and alcohol treatment services can be tested for hepatitis C (HCV) at a participating community pharmacy. This service has recently been extended until at least March 2023. Where individuals test positive for HCV antibodies, they will be referred for appropriate further testing and treatment via the relevant NHS Operational Delivery Network.
Within drug services, a new micro-elimination criteria accompanied by guidance from NHS England encourages providers to increase rates of HCV testing and ensure engagement in treatment for any patients testing positive. The National Health Service has recently established an opt-out HCV testing pilot in sexual health services. The pilot has shown the benefit of HCV testing in sexual health services is limited, with large number of tests being required to find a small number of cases at rates no higher than observed in the general population. However, any positive tests in sexual health services are directed to clinical treatment and followed up to confirm a sustained virological response at 12, 24 and 48 weeks post-treatment.